Best games to play in the car to keep the kids happy holiday cottages

Best games to play in the car to keep the kids happy

Ed Roberts 05 January 2017

Much is made of outdoor play and engaging with nature, but what about those forgotten games we used to play on long distance trips with our families? Journeys during the school holidays at Easter and May half term used to be filled with games that would keep the kids from asking 'are we there yet?'. The games of eye-spy, word association and Big Bus often stirred the imagination and distracted us from the potential boredom of endless motorways. At best, we had a CD/tape/radio and a few good games to spur us on until the next pit-stop. Nowadays, a lot of cars can be equipped with personal computers and DVD players to keep the youngsters engaged, but there are arguments that these tech-tools only isolate us from children.

Kids toys

The old games are all part of the fun, all part of the theatre of getting ready for a wonderful break, packed full of new places to discover and fresh activities to get involved with. Here’s our suggestions for some in-car games that have been passed down the generations that all the family can enjoy.

I Spy

Teddy strapped in a car seat

I spy is the ‘daddy’ of all family games. If you don’t know the rules to this mad-cap, head scratcher, why not try it out on your next holiday trip? Everybody takes a turn – the ‘spy’ secretly looks around their surroundings and picks an item that they can see. Then they chant the famous words, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…” and then they announce the first letter of their chosen object. So, if they had picked ‘road’, for instance, the spy would say “R!”, then the other players proceed to guess what has been ‘spied’. Once the right answer has been discovered, it’s the winner’s turn to pick, and so on.

Big Bus

Small London bus

Big Bus comes in many forms and has had many different names over the decades, but whatever its name, the main rules don’t vary all that much. This game takes a little bit more advance preparation and needs a piece of paper and pencil for all the players. The master of the game gives the players a list of items they must look for on the trip and there are points to earn for each of them. The players can see and then tick them off their lists. For instance, if you’re driving past a castle, all players can tick the castle off the list. The one exception is if you see a ‘Big Bus’. The first person to see a bus/coach on the ride yells out ‘Big Bus’. Then they are awarded 10 points. The person with the most points on reaching your destination is the winner!

Word Association

Word games

This lightning game of quick wit can also make you laugh as well as expanding your vocabulary, so this is a good one for the grown-ups too! Player one picks a word and player two thinks of an associated word. For example, player one may say “zoo”, and player two may say “animals” - both are word associated. The response must come immediately or that person should sit out the round until there’s only one player left. A person also gets knocked out if the response is not associated with the last word. So, if you had answered something like “shoe” that has nothing to do with “zoo”, you’re also out. Word association is loads of fun and educational too!

The Number Plate Game


Ever played the number plate game? As we all know, all cars are identified by their unique registration plate found at the front and back of the vehicle. This game involves solving an imaginary anagram made up from the last three letters on the number plate. There are no right and wrong answers, instead it works as a way of stirring the old grey matter and developing short sentences from limited resources. For instance, you see a car with the last three letters on its number plate 'ILY'. You could come up with any three words that made sense in that order – like, I Love You, or Ivan Likes Yellow. This game even works if you’re travelling alone but it’s good fun for all the family, and a bit trickier than Eye-Spy or Big Bus!

We went to the shops…

Here’s a junior mind-mapping task to exercise the memory. It’s also huge fun and can kill a serious chunk of travel time if you get into the spirit of things. This game is as simple as it is ingenious and will task players of all ages. The rules are simple, player one says: “I went to the shops and I bought an umbrella.” Player two would then add: “I went to the shops and I bought an umbrella and a bird house.” Each player must recite the list with all the items in the correct order. If an item gets forgotten or turns up out of order, then they should drop out of the race until the next go. As the list gets longer, the task gets trickier.

We hope we’ve brought back some fond memories of old trips to the seaside. Why not share these fun games with the family on your next holiday?

Why not have a look at our collection of holiday cottages in the Peak District National Park to feel inspired?


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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